The sentence I am proofreading is

"Good communication reduces the insecurity of employees and creates understanding of the measures taken."

Should the article "an" be placed before "understanding"?

Maybe a better question would be, is "understanding" considered a noun in this sentence?

This is really bothering me because the word "understanding" is used many times throughout the document I am proofreading and none of them have the article "an" before it.

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  • I don't see the relevance of wondering whether understanding is a noun. It is, but that doesn't solve your problem. If something creates happiness, happiness is a noun, but it doesn't take an article. Possibly what you mean to ask is whether understanding can be treated as a non-count noun? – oerkelens Feb 16 '18 at 20:14
  • Oh, I understand. That's interesting. Hmm. – Melody Rae Feb 16 '18 at 20:21
  • So, I suppose that it is a noncount noun in this case. – Melody Rae Feb 16 '18 at 20:22
  • We can have understanding between us. We can have an understanding between us. We can have understandings between us. There are slight differences in meaning of all three, I believe. – Nigel J Feb 16 '18 at 20:34
  • yeah, the more I consider this, I feel better leaving out the article. – Melody Rae Feb 16 '18 at 20:35

Either "understanding" or "an understanding" are acceptable in that sentence. They're not completely interchangeable, though: if you add the "an", it will change the meaning slightly.

"An understanding" usually refers to a particular, agreed, shared view of a situation. Compare:

Come to an understanding. synonyms: agree; settle; arrange

"Understanding" on its own is more general. I think this is probably the more appropriate form in your sentence. It suggests that the employees will understand the reason for the measures taken, but not that they will necessarily accept or agree with them.

And yes, it's a noun: http://examples.yourdictionary.com/examples-of-abstract-nouns.html

  • Thank you for your answer. I feel better leaving out the article because of your explanation. Especially since it implies that it is not as specific. Thanks for you help! – Melody Rae Feb 16 '18 at 20:36

As ArchContrarian has pointed out, both are acceptable but "understanding" without the article is probably the correct one here since we're not talking about a shared view. But an even better option might be to rework the cumbersome sentence: ""Good communication reduces employees' insecurity and helps them understand what's been done."

  • :) +1 ... how about, "Explain your decision, it's not a gulag you're running here"! – ArchContrarian Feb 16 '18 at 21:04

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